High School Football

Friday Preview: Bluffton, other area teams begin playoffs tonight

smcdowell@islandpacket.comNovember 4, 2011 

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A playoff bracket is drawn on the dry-erase board in the classroom of Bluffton High School coach Ken Cribb.

It's the Lower State portion of the Class 3-A playoff bracket, with Cribb's Bobcats written in as one of the four No. 1 seeds. Predictions have been made, and the entire bracket has been filled out.

The winner: Bluffton Bobcats.

Cribb emphasizes his team isn't overconfident and reassures others it won't look past any opponent, more immediately tonight's matchup with Georgetown (7-3), which Cribb says is the toughest opponent on the Bobcats' schedule to date.

But, hey, a guy can dream, right?

"We have one goal, and that's a state championship," Cribb said. "Everything we've done this year, we've had our minds on a state championship."

The march begins tonight.

Bluffton (10-0) will open postseason play and put its undefeated record on the line when it hosts Georgetown at 7:30 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium. Although they finished 3-2 in Region 8-AAA, the run-heavy Bulldogs are the No. 4 seed from the region after they finished third in a three-way tiebreaker.

"I would say they're probably the best team we've faced the whole year," said senior linebacker Corey Stoner.

Stoner says he and his teammates are ready for the challenge after rolling through an undefeated regular season in which they broke the state's regular-season record with 605 points in 10 games. The Bobcats defeated every team by at least 28 points and only once trailed after the first quarter. They have allowed only 54 points all season.

The Bulldogs, though, make for a rather unique opponent. Cribb began his head coaching career at Georgetown and still refers to it as his hometown. His former assistant coach at South Florence, Bradley Adams, now coaches Georgetown and is plenty familiar with Cribb's style.

But Adams may be a little more familiar with the old Cribb, who scrapped his traditional double-wing approach this offseason and moved Bluffton to a new pistol formation centered around the team's dynamic passing game. The results have been even better than expected. C.J. Frazier has thrown for a school-record 38 touchdowns, and Dimitri Lowry has caught a school-record 16.

"It's going to be a test to see how well he knows me," Cribb said before smiling. "I don't think he knows the new me."

TONIGHT'S OTHER GAMES

Goose Creek (9-1) at Beaufort High (5-5), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Eagles' final regular season contest is a rematch of last year's 49-14 Gators victory. Beaufort High believes it needs Fort Dorchester to defeat Ashley Ridge for a chance at the Class 4-A playoffs. Eagles fullback Ryan Allen, out last week with an ankle injury, is expected back.

Up next: Beaufort High will wait to find its Class 4-A playoff fate.

Key to the game: The Eagles will need everything to work in their favor to have a chance to stay in the game. And with Beaufort High's playoff hopes in the balance, there will be no need to hold anything back against the Gators.

Class 3-A -- First round

Hilton Head High (4-6, No. 4 seed from Region 7) at Myrtle Beach (9-1, No. 1 seed from Region 8)

The skinny: Hilton Head High has never lost to Myrtle Beach -- it has a 2-0 record, with the last victory sending the Seahawks to the state title game in 1990 -- but it will be a tall task to keep that record in order tonight. Myrtle Beach is the Class 3-A defending state champion and has been ranked No. 1 at times this season after breezing through Region 8-AAA. Hilton Head High earned the fourth seed from Region 7-AAA f or the second straight season.

Up next: The winner of tonight's game will face the winner of Airport and Lakewood.

Key to the game: Myrtle Beach is a pass-heavy team that rotates its two quarterbacks (CJ Cooper and Tyler Keane) on every down. Hilton Head High must be prepared to defend the pass. The Seahawks will also need to find their own success through the air, though Myrtle Beach defensive end Tyler Knox isn't in the habit of allowing quarterbacks much time to throw. Hilton Head High quarterback Michael Julian broke a record for passing yards in a season (1,765) and also owns the record for completions in a year (135). He will need to be at the top of his game tonight.

Class 1-A Div. I -- First round

Ridgeland (8-2, No. 4 seed in Lower State) at Johnsonville (8-2, No. 5 seed), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Rematch of the Jaguars' first round contest in 2010, a 27-15 Ridgeland victory. Including their forfeit from Allendale-Fairfax, the Jaguars have won six consective games. The Flashes have scored at least 27 points in each of their victories.

Up next: With a victory, Ridgeland would likely travel to face Bamberg-Ehrhardt, which knocked the Jaguars from the Class 1-A playoffs last season.

Key to the game: For Ridgeland, the key will be not to look ahead. The Jaguars no doubt have a rematch with Bamberg-Ehrhardt on their mind. The Red Raiders knocked the Jaguars from the playoffs a season ago and delivered a crushing overtime defeat during the regular season. Ridgeland coach Richard Kirkland has preached the importance of finishing.

Class 1-A Div. II -- First round

Scott's Branch (3-7, No. 6 seed) at Whale Branch (7-3, No. 3 seed), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: Whale Branch is hosting a playoff game for the first time and attempting to earn its first playoff victory. Scott's Branch followed a five-game losing streak by winning its final two games. The Warriors average 29 points and 332 yards per game.

Up next: With a victory, Whale Branch would either travel to Timmonsville or host Bethune-Bowman in the second round.

Key to the game: How will Stedmon James' return affect the Warriors? The senior, who hurt his knee during the spring and missed the regular season, completed 11 of 18 passes for 156 yards and two scores against Bamberg-Ehrhardt. If he continues to click, the Warriors could be dangerous.

SCISAA Class 2-A -- First round

Calhoun Academy (3-6, No. 4 seed from Region 1) at Hilton Head Christian (10-0, No. 1 seed from Region 2), 7 p.m.

The skinny: The Eagles begin their quest for their third state title since 2006 with a home game against a Cavaliers squad that lost two of its last three games to slip to the No. 4 seed. Hilton Head Christian finished off an undefeated regular season with a 33-7 win over Hilton Head Prep on Friday, two days after learning its only loss had been erased when Allendale-Fairfax was forced to forfeit its season-opening win for using an ineligible player.

Up next: The winner will face the Williamsburg Academy-Hilton Head Prep winner in next week's semifinals.

Key to the game: The Eagles will have a decided advantage on both sides of the ball. As long as they take care of the ball and don't give up big plays, they should easily move one step closer to their goal of a state title.

Florence Christian (4-6, No. 3 seed from Region 1) at Thomas Heyward (9-1, No. 2 seed from Region 2), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Rebels' goal of getting to the state championship game to earn a chance to avenge their only loss, a 35-26 defeat to Hilton Head Christian, begins with a home game against Florence Christian, which lost its last two games by a combined score of 81-7 to fall to the No. 3 seed.

Up next: The winner likely wlll travel to face defending state champion Thomas Sumter in next week's semifinals.

Key to the game: The Rebels are tough to beat when they can get out to an early lead and grind away the clock with their ground game. If they can put up a couple scores early, they should have a stress-free playoff opener.

Hilton Head Prep (5-4, No. 3 seed from Region 2) at Williamsburg Academy (9-2, No. 2 seed from Region 1), 7:30 p.m.

The skinny: The Dolphins hit the road in hopes of earning a rematch with rival Hilton Head Christian Academy in next week's SCISAA Class 2-A semifinals. Prep was pleasantly surprised to learn junior running back and linebacker Scott D'Amico will be available. D'Amico was scheduled to have surgery to remove a calcium deposit that is impinging on a bone in his foot, but D'Amico elected to postpone the surgery until after the season and play through the pain. Quarterback Jeremy Haidon also was cleared to return from a neck injury suffered three weeks ago against Thomas Heyward, and senior L.J. Orage is expected to play with a soft cast despite a fractured wrist.

Up next: The winner likely will travel to Hilton Head Christian, which shouldn't have much trouble with Calhoun Academy.

Key to the game: The Stallions average 33.5 points per game with a pass-first spread offense, but the Dolphins feel they match up well on the perimeter. They'll need to get some stops early and establish the run to control the pace of the game and wear down the Stallions.

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